Brexit: What happens now? Guide to next steps as May loses again

Theresa May gambled and lost today as she risked a third vote on her deal in a scramble to secure May 22 as exit day.

Instead Britain is currently on track for a No Deal on April 12 – but most in Westminster expect a long delay and possibly a general election instead.

The EU had said she must win approval on her deal by tonight to ‘book’ May 22 as Brexit day. Instead MPs are set to try and force Britain into a soft and slow Brexit that could take years. 

Mrs May could yet try again but her hopes of passing the deal look bleak while the DUP are so resolutely against it.

MPs will hold their own debates and votes on Monday on alternatives, building on Wednesday’s vote which saw the most support for a second referendum or a customs union. 

It sets the stage for a possible showdown between Mrs May’s deal and an alternative Brexit built by Parliament before an EU summit on April 10. 

Ministers have warned a general election may now be needed to break the impasse – but this too will require Brexit to be put back for months if No Deal is to be prevented.

If a snap election is called in the coming weeks, Mrs May could have to fight it herself – despite announcing plans to resign of the deal passes. 

But more likely is that Mrs May could stand down after agreeing a long negotiation extension with the EU, prompting a 12-week leadership election and a potential general election in around six months. 

Looming over today’s vote was a new forecast of what might happen in a snap election by polling expert Sir John Curtice.   

But Sir John’s latest numbers suggest a near identical Commons would be returned – accept with slightly weaker Tory and Labour parties in a more hung parliament. 

The figures suggest even the dramatic step of a new general election would do little to break the stalemate.   

With mounting questions this is MailOnline’s guide to what might happen next: 

Sir John Curitce’s latest numbers suggest a near identical Commons would be returned – accept with slightly weaker Tory and Labour parties in a more hung parliament

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox opened today's debate with Prime Minister Theresa May looking on behind him

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox opened today's debate with Prime Minister Theresa May looking on behind him

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox opened today’s debate with Prime Minister Theresa May looking on behind him  

What happens now May has lost her third vote? 

The first action will be on Monday night when MPs hold a second round of indicative votes on alternative plans.

No rules have yet been published for how it will work but the idea is to build on Wednesday night’s first round, which tested eight ideas.

A second referendum got the most Aye votes, closely followed by a permanent customs union – which crucially was opposed by fewer MPs.

What will the EU do?  

An emergency summit will be held on April 10. Britain can use this to ask for a longer delay to Brexit – perhaps to the end of the year or even longer.

Mrs May has told MPs a long delay will mean holding European Parliament elections on May 22.  

What is No 10’s plan? 

Mrs May is ploughing on for now. Downing Street is insistent the deal remains the best way of securing an orderly Brexit and appears set on another vote at some point.  

No 10 may now consider whether to call a snap general election if MPs try to pass laws to force May to pursue their option next week. 

Will May go for a long extension or No Deal? 

Nobody knows for certain. The Prime Minister has publicly ruled out personally going for a long extension but also admitted Parliament will rule out No Deal.

Will May resign now her deal has failed again? 

Again, nobody knows for sure. Her announcement on Wednesday night that she would stand down was contingent on the deal passing.

In practice, it drained Mrs May of all remaining political capital. Most in Westminster think her Premiership is over within weeks at the latest. 

As her deal folded for a third time this afternoon, she faced immediate calls from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn so stand down with instant effect. 

What is clear is there is already a fight underway for the Tory leadership.  

Polls since the 2017 general election show the two main parties tied close together - suggesting a similar result to last time is very likely

Polls since the 2017 general election show the two main parties tied close together - suggesting a similar result to last time is very likely

Polls since the 2017 general election show the two main parties tied close together – suggesting a similar result to last time is very likely 

Does is all mean there will be an election?

Probably, at some point. The Commons is deadlocked and the Government has no functional majority. While the Fixed Term Parliaments Act means the Government can stumble on, it will become increasingly powerless.

Mrs May could try to call one herself or, assuming she stands down, her successor could do so.  

Would May lead the Tories into an early election? 

Unlikely. Having admitted to her party she would go if the deal passes, Mrs May’s political career is doomed.

While there is no procedural way to remove her, a withdrawal of political support from the Cabinet or Tory HQ would probably finish her even if she wanted to stay.    

How is an election called? When would it be? 

Because of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act passed by the coalition, the Prime Minister can no longer simply ask the Queen to dissolve the Commons and call an election. There are two procedures instead.

First – and this is what happened in 2017 – the Government can table a motion in the Commons calling for an early election. Crucially, this can only pass with a two-thirds majority of MPs – meaning either of the main parties can block it.

Second an election is called if the Government loses a vote of no confidence and no new administration can be built within 14 days.

In practice, this is can only happen if Tory rebels vote with Mr Corbyn – a move that would end the career of any Conservative MP who took the step. 

An election takes a bare minimum of five weeks from start to finish and it would take a week or two to get to the shut down of Parliament, known as dissolution – putting the earliest possible polling day around mid to late May. 

If the Tories hold a leadership election first it probably pushes any election out to late June at the earliest.  

Why do people say there has to be an election? 

The question of whether to call an election finally reached the Cabinet this week.

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay warned the rejection of Mrs May’s deal would set in train a series of events that will lead to a softer Brexit – meaning an election because so many MPs will have to break manifesto promises. 

Last night’s Commons vote to seize control of Brexit from ministers will only fuel the demands.   

Labour has been calling for a new vote for months, insisting the Government has failed to deliver Brexit.

Mr Corbyn called a vote of no confidence in the Government in January insisting the failure of the first meaningful vote showed Mrs May’s administration was doomed. He lost but the calls did not go away. 

Brexiteers have joined the demands in recent days as Parliament wrestles with Brexit and amid fears among hardliners promises made by both main parties at the last election will be broken – specifically on leaving the Customs Union and Single Market. 

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen wants Mrs May replaced with a Brexiteer. He believes it would push Remain Tories out of the party and then allow a snap election with more Eurosceptic candidates wearing blue rosettes.

At the same time people's views on whether Brexit is a good idea have not dramatically shifted. Remain has generally been narrowly ahead

At the same time people's views on whether Brexit is a good idea have not dramatically shifted. Remain has generally been narrowly ahead

At the same time people’s views on whether Brexit is a good idea have not dramatically shifted. Remain has generally been narrowly ahead 

What might happen? 

Both main parties will have to write a manifesto – including a position on Brexit. Both parties are deeply split – in many cases between individual MPs and their local activists.

Under Mrs May, the Tories presumably try to start with the deal. But it is loathed by dozens of current Tory MPs who want a harder Brexit and hated even more by grassroots Tory members. 

Shifting Tory policy on Brexit to the right would alienate the majority of current MPs who voted to Remain.

Labour has similar splits. Many of Labour’s MPs and activists want Mr Corbyn to commit to putting Brexit to a second referendum – most with a view to cancelling it. 

Mr Corbyn is a veteran Eurosceptic and millions of people who voted Leave in 2016 backed Labour in 2017. 

The splits set the stage for a bitter and chaotic election. The outcome is highly unpredictable – the Tories start in front but are probably more divided on the main question facing the country.

Labour is behind but knows it made dramatic gains in the polls in the last election with its promises of vastly higher public spending. 

Neither side can forecast what impact new political forces might wield over the election or how any public anger over the Brexit stalemate could play out.

It could swing the result in favour of one of the main parties or a new force. 

Or an election campaign that takes months, costs millions of pounds could still end up in a hung Parliament and continued stalemate. This is the current forecast by polling expert Sir John Curtice. 

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